The Association of European Open-Air Museums (AEOM) Conference

This year’s association of European open-Air museums (AEOM) biannual Conference 2019 took place at multiple sites in Poland, over four days in late August.

Its two key themes were how Open-Air Museums represent different cultural identities, and how we represent the past – particularly the technical solutions for reconstruction and archaeological interpretation. 

Peter Inker, EXARC Board Member, was invited to participate in order to talk about how EXARC and AEOM can best partner, and also to share best practices from his workplace Colonial Williamsburg in the USA. The conference consisted of site visits and the presentation of papers. 

Overall, in line with the conference’s theme, there seemed to be a lot of focus on social inclusion, in museums. Questions were raised on the following:

  • How do museums represent diverse groups within society, and particularly where do we draw the evidence from, and who is included in the discussion, planning and presentation? 
  • How we present difficult histories?
  • How do we integrate social activism into a future with museums as social meaning and relevance? 
  • How do we address things that were normal in the past, that are no longer normal now? 
  • How do we engage staff when they are not as broad minded about these subjects?

These questions were echoed in off-line discussions about the concomitant ICOM proposed definition of the museum, and what impact it would have on existing museums. The body of the conference came to no clear conclusions in this regard, reflecting the diversity of opinion to the proposal in the wider field. 
Looking back at the conference as a whole, the format was a whirlwind of travel and papers, but even so it was very successful. Visiting the museums was an excellent way of contextualizing the day’s presentations, provided an opportunity for networking, and a way to experience the pertinent museums in a coordinated way. Overall, we can highly recommend this conference to interested EXARC members in future.